Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Yushu July 2010 - Journey Into Wamlung

Double rainbows

The next part of the journey took me to Nangchen town and into the Ga Xiong District which is well over 5000 meters above sea level. The truck departed at 5.00am on 11 July. At 6.00am my alarm jingled me out of bed to a cool, crisp morning. We left Yushu at 7.30am, heading to Nangchen town. After a 2 hour ride, we made an R&R stop, where the men were seen heading in one direction and me heading a different direction. It is a common rule that one does not follow someone on a stroll during such an R&R stop. It is a call of nature stop!

An hour later we reached Nangchen town. Clusters of mud dwellings dotted the outskirts of this town. We made a 3 hour stop; lunch and a short wait for 2 units of 4-Wheel Drive that will take us across peculiar variety of scenes and huge ranges of pristine mountains.

The drive from Nangchen to the hot spring near Wamlung averages on an altitude of about 5,000 meters. This 5 hour journey takes you through breathtakingly spectacular landscapes which helps take one’s mind away from the numbness of the rocky, harsh ride. We caught up with our truck which broke down soon after Nangchen town.

We reached the hot spring around sevenish and Rinpoche immediately made arrangement for the night’s accommodation. On Rinpoche’s request one tribal family gave up their tent for me to put up for the night while Rinpoche camped out on that cold, raining night. Next morning after a hurried breakfast, we left for Wamlung Monastery foothills, another hour from the hot spring.
Rinpoche's tent for the night at the hot spring

My room for the night at the hot spring

Local tribes

Had to hike up

The welcoming at Wamlung foothills was warm and we were immediately ushered in for another round of breakfast – tsampa and butter tea. I had to politely decline and resorted to my Iko biscuits. My abode for the next few days was a little blue “suite” in a garden (Ling-kha Doe-khang) with sofa and coffee table, 2 mattresses complete with TV. Toilet was yonder and don’t even bother to think about having a bath. Staying up at Wamlung Monastery was out of the question because of the high altitude and even at the Wamlung foothills one has to battle with the thin air.

The monks and some lay people were trying their best to cater to my taste buds and even came up with porridge (with milk!!!!!!!). I tried to compromise my taste buds but failed miserably. I lost much weight. After 2 days the truck arrived and along with them were vegetables, fruits, noodles, etc. My cravings were delightfully spoilt. I saw light again.
Blue tent my room and colourful tent Rinpoche's. Notice the satelite dish and solar panel outside my tent

My room in the garden or garden in my room

With TV set too

My room with sofa and table
The next day I was taken up to Wamlung Monastery. Construction was underway and hopefully by next summer the 4 storey building complete with separate monks’ quarters and retreat houses will be ready. Wamlung Monastery had been in a dilapidating state and the shrine hall finally gave way in September 2009.
Artist Impression of Wamlung Monastery

My blue tent & Rinpoche's tent

Wamlung Monastery's kitchen

Main shrine hall that collapsed in 2009

Cracking walls - Monks' quarters
To sum it up, a trip to Wamlung Monastery and to the Ga Xiong District is no ordinary adventure. The high altitude and thin air, maneuvering dangerous stretches of road, the inconveniences or absence of basic “comfort stations” are deterrents to many a traveler but if one has enough conviction and determination, you can even move the many majestic mountains and be rewarded with many masterpieces of nature.

Long and winding road

Dro-ma plant


Tsampa plant

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